Harvesting garlic and garlic scapes

I started harvesting garlic this morning, sorting out some to eat fresh and others to dry. I ended up doing this first small harvest (planted in late November) backwards perhaps (you're supposed to dry the smaller heads and eat the larger ones fresh, according to one reference). And I cleaned the outermost leaves (there was lots of soil sticking to the heads), not normally recommended. So I'll plan on using this first batch early. Last year's harvest was such a success that I'm anticipating garlic for some months to come!

Some of my garlic patches are definitely ready to harvest, judging by leaf dieback (and depending on the variety), other patches need a bit more time. You're supposed to judge by the numbers of brown leaves, with variation depending on whether it's softneck or hardneck.

In practice, this is harder than it seems. But happily, garlic is a forgiving crop, and delicious at any stage. (Any sort of freshly-harvested - that is, green garlic - is fabulous, in my opinion).

If the stalk has tipped over, I definitely harvest it, and if it looks pretty brown (in terms of leaves), ditto. And then I tie up bunches to dry in the garden shed for 2 to 3 weeks (it doesn't take long in our warm climate).

I had bought a bunch of garlic scapes at a tailgate market in the mountains over the weekend -- they were quite tasty, although not as ethereal as some reports would suggest. Interestingly, garlic scapes are largely produced by hard-neck (rocambole) garlics, which in warmer areas, we don't grow as much. So, no wonder my largely soft-neck garlics don't normally produce them (I certainly hadn't noticed them before hearing about them on KCRW's Good Food (a favorite podcast from Southern California accessed via iTunes) and reading about them in various other places.

But I'll be harvesting a few more of my garlic scapes in the next week or so, as they produce a curled flower stalk.

Addendum:  I've eaten a lot more garlic scapes since I originally wrote this piece!  I was reminded of this recently by an article sent to me about using garlic scapes.  From a website called Backyard Boss, it's full of great ways to make use of a tasty part of hardneck garlic (we had lots of scapes in the community garden where I volunteer currently.  Yum...)

Happily, this year, I actually have copper markers with the varieties marked, so I can keep track of what's what. In previous years, my wooden labels, marked with pencil, indelible ink, or permanent markers, etc. ended up providing no clues as to variety by the time harvest came around. I'm not all that concerned about varieties (all garlic is good), and frankly it's hard for me to distinguish between varieties, except for size of plants and heads, and reddishness of skins in some. But it's nice to TRY to keep track of how different sorts did.


  1. Thanks for posting this, my neighbor across the creek is about to harvest some garlic...and I am the lucky reciprient of some!

  2. Janet-
    Definitely eat your garlic fresh -- it's totally delicious.

  3. Thanks for the info on garlic. I'm new to onions and don't know when to harvest them - thoughts

  4. ahhhh, refreshing and hassle free gardening.. thanx


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